WE share the immense feeling of disappointment and pain that has met the sad pass to which Mr Mark Anthony Myrie — ‘Buju Banton’ to his legion of fans — came Tuesday in a Tampa, Florida court.
Through his first trial, and the second, we had hoped that the gun and drugs charges against him would have been proven false, and we desperately wanted to believe that his boastful talk about drugs was just him running off at the mouth and nothing else. Clearly, the 12-man American jury felt otherwise.
The artiste was found guilty of three charges — conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute five or more kilogrammes of cocaine, possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug-trafficking offence, and using the wires to facilitate a drug-trafficking offence. He was found not guilty of a fourth charge — attempted possession with the intent to distribute cocaine.
We are in wonderment at the complexities of fate, that Buju Banton should be so brought low at the height of his musical career, his moment of triumph winning the coveted Grammy Award for his Before The Dawn album, from which some creative soul at the Observer quoted on the front page of yesterday’s edition.
Banton means much to reggae as a musical genre. The ‘Gargamel’ as he is also fondly called, had often been spoken of in the league of artistes named to bear the standard after the late great Jamaican reggae superstar, Mr Robert Nesta ‘Bob’ Marley. His charisma, articulation, stage presence and penchant for hit-making songs, have endeared him to many here and overseas.
This has added to the pain of his guilty verdict in the Sam M Gibbons Federal Court where supporters wept openly.
Of course, not everyone is in tears. It is widely known that Buju Banton was regarded as the arch-enemy of gays and lesbians, following the release 15 years ago of his song, Boom Bye Bye, which is treated by the gay community as the anthem of the perceived campaign by reggae artistes to advocate violence against them.
The gay community, led by a radical group calling itself Outrage! has staged protests against Banton and several other Jamaican artistes, some of whom have since been refused American visas.
It is difficult to convince some Jamaicans that the gay community is not behind the alleged entrapment and eventual conviction of Buju Banton.
If any good can come of this bad situation, we hope that its important lessons will be learnt. Mr Myrie, after all, admitted what was caught on tape, that he “talked the talk” about drug dealing to someone who turned out to be an informant and he tasted a white substance said to be cocaine. Even if all that was done in innocence, juries are not mind-readers and they look at the evidence presented to them.
Drug dealing has wreaked havoc in this world, particularly in the United States where they go aggressively after suspected dealers. If you have no intention to become involved in the drug trade, stay away from people who are. And especially do not brag about something as serious and dangerous as drugs.
We sincerely hope that Mr Myrie will win his appeal, if he follows through on what is not going to be an easy road. Otherwise, we hope that his sentence would not be too onerous and that he will return to Jamaica to continue to thrill his fans.
Too bad for what has happened, but it certainly is not the end of the road.
Bustamante and Buju Banton
By his own account, national hero Sir William Alexander Bustamante was born on February 24, 1884, which would be 127 years ago today. He died on August 6, 1977 at the age of 93. This national hero who was Jamaica’s first prime minister in political independence was decorated with British, Jamaican and other honours, and is arguably the most decorated Jamaican in history.
Two days ago, Mark Myrie who goes by the stage name “Buju Banton” was found guilty in Florida, USA, of dealing in cocaine. Is he really guilty or has he been framed? I do not know, but in any case it is another sad episode in the life of a popular entertainer. In the now defunct Jamaica Herald, on November 2 1992, some 18 years, three months and three weeks ago, my column was entitled, “From Busta to Buju”. At the time, it was in the news that Buju Banton’s song Boom bye-bye was causing a furore in the powerful gay communities in North America and Europe. It all happened when someone translated the lyrics into the sort of English that would be understood in North America.
(Left) BUSTAMANTE… most decorated Jamaican in history. (at Right) BANTON… didn’t seem to learn from earlier experience
Also please see Caribbean Law TV’s interview with Professor David P. Rowe following the guilty verdict in the second trial of Buju Banton’s narcotics case. CLTV talked to Professor Rowe about the federal government’s process in bringing its second case, the way the defense made its arguments and the substance of the verdict.
Also see Barbara Gloudon’s opinion piece that appeared in the Jamaica Observer and posted on Gay Jamaica Watch –
As taken from the transcripts themselves in the conversation between himself and the informant (Buju didn’t know it at the time) he seems clearly interested in doing business, get the full 62 paged document here:http://www.tampabay.com/specials/2010/PDFs/banton.pdf he referred to snitches and that he didn’t event trust the privacy of the very conversation he was having then with the man named CS.
Peace and tolerance